By Sister of Charity of Nazareth Julie Driscoll
This past Tuesday, we held the third annual prayer for victims and perpetrators of human trafficking. A group of women religious and our associates began this public prayer because we seek to respond to the needs of the world through prayerful compassion and action.
The international crime of human trafficking, reaping about $32 billion annually, is diametrically opposed to the dignity of each human person as a child of God. It happens every day in our city but we chose this week because trafficking has been proven to increase during major sporting events, such as the Kentucky Derby and March Madness.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery that subjects children, women and men through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor. This practice can include prostitution, pornography and sex tourism as well as labor in domestic service, factory or construction.
A few facts that are deeply concerning: The average age of entry into this slavery is 12 to 14 years old. A runaway teen, on average, will be captured by traffickers within 48 hours.
Pope Francis has consistently named this evil “a crime against humanity” and dedicated his 2015 New Year’s message,
“No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters” to this topic. We seek to respond to his call and are grateful for the support of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.
Last year we formed a group to address this issue in an ongoing manner. We have been blessed that others who are knowledgeable and passionate about trafficking have joined our group. Our primary goal is to educate others about trafficking. Our long-range goal is to establish a safe house in our area.
This year we conducted a Lenten film series on human trafficking and have procured a billboard on trafficking at the corner of 6th and Muhammad Ali.
We recently named our group PATH Coalition of Kentucky. PATH stands for People Against Trafficking Humans. We hope to be a path to education on this vital issue and a path to safety, freedom and wholeness. We plan to network with other groups addressing this evil.
One member of our group is Amy Nace-Degonda at Catholic Charities, whose staff helps provide services to trafficking victims throughout Kentucky. They also provide trainings to educators and law enforcement as well as vital services to victims they rescue. Through 2014, 160 trafficking victims had been identified in Kentucky; 94 were children, with the youngest two months old
PATH wishes to be available to teachers, parents, parishes and other groups to focus on education. There can be a temptation to shrug this off and say it happens somewhere else and could never happen to our children.
We have evidence that trafficking occurs in all parts of Louisville. It is sobering to know Margeaux Gray, a victim who is now a nationally leading advocate against trafficking.
She went to a Catholic school in Kentucky and was trapped in this horror from age 5 to 18 years old. As a former teacher, I know how vulnerable children can be.
Traffickers subtly lure some middle grade youth through the promise of money, clothes and luxuries and then sell them for profit.
We invite you to join us in combatting human trafficking. For more information, to learn what you can do or to request a speaker, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sister of Charity of Nazareth Julie Driscoll serves on the SCN Justice Committee.